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Toward the end of the novel (particularly chapter 11), Ponyboy has become extremely depressed. He is upset over everything that has taken place in the past few days, especially the death of his best friend, Johnny. Darry has begun to recognize this and tries to ease some of Pony’s pain. The reason that Darry’s reaching out to Ponyboy is so important is because Pony goes through the entire novel feeling that everything that he does upsets or disappoints his big brother. He is constantly fighting with Darry and by the end of the novel (chapter 12) Ponyboy feels a closeness to Darry that he never felt before. This closeness seems to heal Ponyboy’s pain and depression and helps him to see past all of the bad things that have happened recently and allows him to have a positive outlook on the future.
In Chapter 11, Randy visits Ponyboy to discuss the upcoming trial. During their conversation, Randy tells Ponyboy that Johnny was holding the knife and killed Bob Sheldon. However, Ponyboy is still distraught and traumatized from the loss of his friends and says that he killed Bob Sheldon. Darry overhears the conversation and tells Randy to leave. While Ponyboy is laying on his bed, Darry notices that Pony is smoking. Darry immediately tells Ponyboy to put the cigarette out. Pony obeys his older brother, and Darry says, "Maybe you can be a little neater, huh, little buddy?" (Hinton, 143). Ponyboy mentions that Darry had never called him "buddy" before. Typically, Soda was the only person who referred to him as "little buddy."
This moment is significant because it displays Darry's love and concern for Ponyboy. Darry understands that Pony is struggling to accept the fact that he has lost his friends, and attempts to console his younger brother. The word "buddy" is a term of endearment that people use to display their affection for others. It is Darry's way of telling Ponyboy that he cares about him and hopes that he will recover. This means a lot to Ponyboy, coming from Darry, who has continually fought with him throughout the novel.
Throughout the novel, Darry is trying as hard as he can to keep his family together. It shouldn't be his responsibility. It should be his parents' job, but they are dead. Because of that, the head of household job falls on Darry as the oldest brother. Darry is hard on his little brothers, and Ponyboy thinks it is especially directed at him. Pony goes through most of the novel thinking that Darry doesn't love him or appreciate him. That starts to change after Darry shows up at the hospital worried sick about Ponyboy and Johnny. By the end of the novel, their relationship is getting better. It's not great, but it is getting better. The entire situation is important to Ponyboy, because he is now realizing and seeing that his oldest brother really does love him and care for him. They might not always get along, but they do all care for each other.
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